LNH COMICS PRESENTS #34 [Cover is a surreal portrait of Agents Sculder and Mully and a Mandrake creature.] -------------------------------------------------------------------------- As the first crack of lightning spat from the top of the Wishful Star building, the people queued below dived for cover. A few of them looked up briefly when something whistled down, and crashed into the road, but most of them stayed covered up. A minute later the energy tendrils stopped firing, and some dared to look up. One or two even stood. All of them scrambled for better cover as bits of building rained them on them. Luckily, the largest pieces missed, but several smaller pieces did strike, causing large bruises, and in some cases, breaking limbs. The main door to the Wishful Star opened, and Agent, Missy, Morph and Dva of the Alt.Riders walked out, but stopped in their tracks when they saw the devastation. Agent looked up, and saw the ruined buildings where energy had struck. "Oh, hells," he whispered. "We've got to help these people," said Dva, heading towards the nearest person lying groaning on the ground. "Them! They did this!" someone shouted. The Alt.Riders found themselves the center of a growing ring of attention. Agent gauged the public reaction. "Morph, grab the Net.Elementalist." "Wha? Where?" Agent pointed, and Morph gasped as he saw the Net.Elementalist in a depression in the road that he had obviously caused. "Ladies and gentlemen," Agent said loudly, raising his hands placidly. "Do not fear. We have stopped evil force in this club." "What evil force?" one man shouted. "What did you do?" "Unfortunately, the people inside were taken away. We were unable to stop them. But we shall do everything we can to get them back-" "They killed them!" a woman shrilled. "Get them." Dva backpedalled to stand beside her teammates. A rock hit her chest, but did no real damage due to her marshmallow like body. "Morph, get us out of here!" Morph's mouth dropped in surprise, but a rock hitting him motivated him. Handing the Net.Elementalist's limp body to Agent, Morph expanded and grew up over the Alt.Riders, who huddled together to make things easier for him. Rock and pieces of wood and concrete bounced off Morph, who was now a large transparent shield, some structurely strong shape that deflected the missiles. But he didn't stop there. The shield bulged, and swept under the Alt.Riders, knocking them backwards. They were now encased in a large see-through ball. They watched as the crowd, now more a mob, howled at them as they rolled away. -------------------------------------------------------------------------- "The Mank of the Mandrake, Epilogue." "The Truth was out there." FBI Headquarters 9.37am Agent Mully looked up as the paper landed on the desk in front of her. "The latest Net.ional Inquirer?" she asked. "Read the front page," said her partner, Agent Sculder. Mully picked the paper up. "The Mid.net Star," she read. "The only newspaper with the page three superheroine." "They say it's supposed to be Catalyst Lass, but I don't get a reaction from her." Mully ignored him, and looked at the main article. "'I HAD BAZRAEL'S LOVE CHILD'," she read aloud. "Sculder," she said warningly. "The other side." Mully flipped the folded paper over. "'ALT.RIDERS MURDER 200 PEOPLE'." "You heard about what happened in Phila.DEL.phia?" Mully nodded, her red hair bobbing. "I didn't get the details but something about 200 people going missing." "Actually, there was a plane with over a 100 people on board that also went missing at the same time." "300 people?" "It's a postal worker's dream, Mully." "Your point, Sculder?" Sculder leaned in. "The Alt.Riders are being blamed." "So?" "It's another example of the country turning against the Legion of Net.Heroes." "'The LNH disavowed any responsibility over the Alt.Rider's activities'," Mully read further. "'This enables the Alt.Riders to work as a hit team for the LNH, supposed superheroes working for us, but really striking out with official sanction against the ones they are supposed to protect.' Sculder, this isn't journalism. It's hardly even unsubstantiated rumours." "We're going out there, Mully, to find out what really happened. Pack your bags, Mully, we're going to check out the wide side of Phila.DEL.phia." _-~-_ Phila.DEL.phia 12.21pm The Wishful Star building had been cordonned off by the police, but their FBI badges got Sculder and Mully inside. "It took us nearly an hour to subdue the riot in front of this place," the police chief said, as he showed them the way inside. "They were screaming for the Alt.Rider's blood, even those that had been injured. The paramedics had to sedate them before they could even get a good look at the injuries." "Do you think the Alt.Riders are responsible?" Sculder asked as they walked to the main club dance floor. "We have no idea of what happened in there, except for their word, but they ain't talking. But, after what that guy did in Germa.net a few months ago, I'm beginning to wonder about them. There just ain't any sign there's any control over them anymore. They can do what they like, it looks to me." Mully gasped as she caught sight of the main room. The walls were pitted with scorch marks, lines violently burnt on. Taking up room on the floor were two large objects, balls with many spikes radiating from them. Now they looked severely burnt out, blackened shells, still smoking even after all this time. Police crawled through the wreckage, looking for clues to what events had progressed here, but were coming up short. "We think someone got in here before us, but we don't know how," said the chief. "We haven't found much of anything helpful." "Are the Alt.Riders available to talk to?" Sculder asked. "No, they never are. Too high and mighty for us. One of them lives here, though. He just got out of hospital. I'll get you his address." _-~-_ Barry Knewbee's house. 12.57pm A woman with waist length blonde hair answered the door when Sculder knocked. Showing their badges, Sculder said, "I'm Agent Sculder with the Federal Bureau of Invest.sig.ation. This is Agent Mully. Is your husband Mr. Barry Knewbee?" The woman nodded slowly. "Also known as the Net.Elementalist?" "What is it you want?" the woman asked. "We'd like to talk to him, ma'am, if we can," said Mully. The woman considered a moment, then opened the door wider. "Come in, please. My name is Alice Knewbee. Barry is in the lounge." They walked through the corridor and into the lounge. Barry Knewbee sat in an arm chair, trying to relax. "Mr. Knewbee? We're with the FBI. May we talk with you?" Barry opened an eye an peered at them. "Agent... Sculder, I think? And Agent Mully?" Both agents expressed surprise. "How did you know our names, sir?" asked Mully. Barry smiled faintly. "Once I could have told you exactly what stories you were in." Sculder and Mully shared a glance. Alice lent near them and whispered, "Must still be a bit groggy. He gets like that sometimes." "Mr. Knewbee, can you tell us please what happened in the Wishful Star the other night?" Sculder asked. Barry shook his head. "I wasn't in there. I ran interference outside." "How exactly?" inquired Mully. "Would you like a seat?" Alice offered. Sculder and Mully both sat on the couch, Sculder sitting on the edge. "A drink?" Both shook their heads. "By flying around the building," said Barry, answering Mully's question. "Attracting attention." "Did you?" Sculder asked. "Well, Drake shot at me, but other than that, no." "Drake? Would that be Emanuel Drake, owner of the club?" "Yes. I never met him, but those that did said he was a sleaze." "And what did you do after Mr. Drake shot at you?" Mully asked. "I flew to the top of the building, and examined the object on it." "Could you describe it please?" "A large ball, supported by spikes. The spikes emitted energy surges. That's what hit and destroyed the nearby buildings." "Did you see that happening?" Sculder asked. Barry looked a little embarrassed. "I was hit, stunned, and thrown off the side of the building. I was lucky to survive the fall." "And so you never knew what happened inside the club during that time." Barry shook his head. "Only what I was told." "And can you tell us what that was?" Barry shrugged. "Agent confronted Drake, and Drake took Missy hostage. Those ball things inside shot everyone with energy, and Morph freed Missy from Drake just before Drake and everyone else was teleported away." "Are you aware that some people are saying that the Alt.Riders killed all those now missing people?" Sculder asked. Barry sighed. "Yes. But the others would never let Agent do that." "Would Agent be capable of that?" Both agents looked extremely interested in the answer. "I wouldn't put it past him," replied Barry, darkly. "Do you think that's what happened that night?" "As I said, the others would have stopped him if he tried anything like that. Dva is still talking to him, so Agent must have been good." "Thank you, Mr. Knewbee," said Mully, rising. "You've been helpful." Sculder also rose, but had a final question. "Do you know who might have ransacked the Wishful Star building? They might have found something important that we should know about." Barry studied him for a moment, then spoke. "You want the Homeless Ones." _-~-_ Phila.DEL.phia. 1.42pm "This is a wild goose chase, Sculder," said Mully, peering from the car into the back streets of the city. "He was obviously making something up to get rid of us." "You don't find the idea of the homeless people all gathering together to fight crime possible?" Sculder asked. "Sculder, it wasn't even plausible." "What about the time homeless people held off Queen Enterprise's own forces in Sin.ci.net.ty?" Mully turned to look fully at her partner. "You really believe in this, don't you?" "I've seen an alley cat fight when it gets backed into a corner. Who's to say that people won't fight when they have no other choice." "Sculder, these are the refugees, people who, by circumstance or personal inability, have ended up in misfortune. The..." "Wastrel? Dregs? Mully, that could be exactly what they want us to think, and that gives them a very good edge. Who would expect the worst of humanity capable of any humanity at all?" Mully gave up. "And how do you expect to contact them?" "They are the Homeless Ones, so we need to talk to the homeless," Sculder said, stopping the car, and winding down his window. Lying nearby in a pile of cardboard boxes were two men, lousy with dirt and bugs, and each holding a brown bag containing some bottle of indefinable liquid. "Excuse me," said Sculder. "We're trying to find the Homeless Ones. Could you tell me where they are?" One of the men looked at them wobbly. He pointed further into the less reputable parts of the city. "Ur UURR gablur. Buur ger gaga mer ger." "Thank you. Thank you very much." Sculder hurriedly wound the window back up. "I think he likes you," said Mully. "Maybe it's just me, but I prefer someone who brushes their teeth in the morning." 2.01pm Sculder parked the car, and he and Mully got out. Around them, they couldn't see one house that was in any proper state of maintenance. The damages ran from merely broken windows, to no roof and half of the walls crumbling down. "I agree that this is certainly the area, Sculder, but I don't see anyone about, Homeless Ones or not." "Of course not, Mully. These are homes, so of course they wont be here. Homeless Ones, get it?" Mully glared in sufferance at her fellow agent. Sculder pointed. "Look, there's someone. We'll ask them." Mully looked, and saw two kids with long ragged hair and torn clothes. They did fit the bill of homeless. "Hey!" called out Sculder, trying to get their attention. "We want to talk to you." The two kids looked at each, then back at the agents, then took off, quickly disappearing around the corner of the house. "Come on," said Sculder, as he ran after them, Mully following. As the passed around the corner, they didn't see the kids, but did an old woman further off, pushing a trolley out of sight. "Any port in a storm, Mully," Sculder said, setting off after their new target. As they reached the spot where they had seen her, they had now saw no sign of her. "I was wrong. Wild geese are easier to catch," panted Mully. Sculder spotted a man eying them, and ran after him, Mully tagging along, now somewhat reluctant. They turned into a blind alley, and reached the end of it without success. Sculder examined the buildings beside them, but the only available door was locked. He felt a tugging on his arm, and turned to see Mully looking towards the mouth of the alley. Turning, he saw several homeless lined up, but they weren't looking too humble. Each had some kind of gun, and all were pointed at them. Sculder raised his hands. "This is it, Mully. We've finally been captured by someone with worse dress sense than me." "We're with the FBI," Mully called out. "We just want to talk to someone about what happened at the Wishful Star building." "We got nothin' to say," one of the homeless shouted back. "The Net.Elementalist said we could talk to you," said Sculder. This caused a pause. "We'll take you to Bill," was the final verdict. _-~-_ The Homeless Ones' Headquarters. 2.43pm Sculder and Mully sat before a very old man, known as Bill, the 'section leader' for this base of the Homeless Ones. "We're all over the country," Bill said. "Where there're homeless people, we're there. In some form or another." "We wanted to know about the Wishful Star. Were you there that night?" asked Mully. "Me?" He paused to laugh, and ended up coughing hard for a minute. "I don't get out anymore. But others of us were. We got a lot of good equipment from there. We'll be able to put it to good use." "Equipment you ransacked, you mean," said Sculder. Bill eyed Sculder. "If you can find it, we'll go to jail for it." Sculder smiled. "We don't want it. If you can put it to a good use, then it'll serve a better purpose that what it was previously used for. Can you tell us what your people found there?" "We were there after the people all vanished. Got in and out before the police arrived. We found most of the equipment already burnt. Microcharges set to explode, as far as we can tell. We removed all evidence of that drug," Bill spat. "Wouldn't want that to fall into the wrong hands." "What drug?" Mully asked. "Can I see it?" Bill shook his head. "Madake it was called. 'Mad' for short. We wont let anything like that out on the streets again. Which means we need to keep a tight grip on it." "What do you think of the stories that the Alt.Riders killed 200 people?" Sculder asked. "Eh? Killed? Nothing like that happened. Would have been bodies, blood everywhere. Nothing like that. But..." Bill leaned in conspiratorially, and the agents leaned in, then leaned back as the smell of Bill wafted into their nostrils. "We used the sewers to get in and out. There's an entrance into the Wishful Star building, if you know about it. But there's something else down there..." "Such as..." Sculder prompted. "200 people could have gotten out through the sewers. But there would have been a lot less than 200 before too long." "Why's that, sir?" Mully asked. "We lost three people ourselves. You can't see it. If you do, it's already too late. A Mandrake creature, Agent called it. A genetically restructured person. It's still down there. A pet left behind by Drake. There wont be many people going back down that sewer again." Mully looked at Sculder carefully. "Don't even think about it," she said. "Could you honestly say that you came to Phila.DEL.phia without taking the opportunity to check out the sewer system?" _-~-_ Phila.DEL.phia sewers 3.21pm "This is the best place, man." A Homeless One, who had a chronic case of the shakes, pointed a trembling finger at the sewer cover. "D..down there, then just follow the noise." After a moment or two, Sculder managed to lever the hatch off. A rank smell drifted up, but Sculder was becoming used to it by now. Not so for Mully. "I can't believe we're going down there." "Where's the brave FBI spirit?" asked Sculder. "Just because we're trying to find a monster that could be responsible for the deaths of 200 people, that shouldn't be any reason to be scared." "After you," Mully said. Sculder descended the service ladder, and his feet splashed in a thin layer of water at the bottom. He took out a small flashlight and panned it around. Mully joined him, but had brought no flashlight with her. However, she did draw her FBI issue gun, as did Sculder. Taking a last look at the bright light of day, they moved into the darkness. "You really think this thing is responsible for those people disappearing? Not that they were teleported away?" "If they were, where to? There's been no sudden population explosions, and I can't see clubbers mixing into every society." "Arrooo!" They paused as the howl reached them. "One beast, as ordered," said Mully. They slowed walked towards the sound, Sculder lining his gun with his flashlight, and Mully taking aim on where the light reflected off the sewer walls. "Arroo!!" The cry sounded closer, and the agents took a bearing before continuing their search. Apart from the occasional howl, the only noise was their splashing feet and the dripping of leaky water works. They were trying to stifle their breathing, in an effort to not attractive the creature quicker than necessary. Something moved in the light beam, and Sculder swung it around quickly, but the creature had gone. "What was it?" Mully whispered. "A genetically restructured man," said Sculder. "Wasn't it obvious?" "An extremely enhanced musculator, probably from an overdose of steroids or similar," said Mully, trying to be scientific. "Whatever it was, I think it's playing with us now." Another cry sounded, this time from behind them. Sculder and Mully spun around, but the beam only lighted more empty sewer. "There!" said Sculder, as something crossed the beam again. He got off one shot, and Mully two, but there was no cry of pain if the creature had been hit. "After it!" Sculder cried, the flashlight beam bobbing as he ran heedlessly through the tunnels. Mully was slower off the mark, and so saw the creature spring up between her and Sculder, turned towards Sculder's unknowing back. "Sculder!" she called, and fired at the creature. The bullets penetrated the creature, and it turned to face her. As she fell backwards in surprise, Sculder fired, attracting it's attention away from her. As it brought its hand up, ready to clobber Sculder, Mully fired her last three shots, then threw her gun at it in desperation. The bullets hit, but didn't stop it, but when the gun fell down into the water, and also touched the creature's foot... A bright blast of light caused them to flinch as the creature shorted itself through the simple circuit. Stunned, they did nothing for a minute, then Sculder helped Mully to stand. "I have to say, that that's the first time I've ever seen that trick of throwing a gun at the person ever work," Sculder commented. _-~-_ FBI Headquarters A week later Sculder looked up as Mully entered the room, then at the report in her hand. Handing it to Sculder, Mully sat down. Sculder skimmed over the contents. "Nothing? They found nothing down there?" he finally exploded. "How is that possible? We were there only a few minutes and came across a creature." Mully shrugged. "It may have been that there was only the one creature. Sculder, the army combed the place over. As you can see, they didn't find anything." Sculder threw the report down in disgust. "It looks like those people were killed by that creature." "But there was no evidence to that." "You saw that thing, Mully. It was pure energy. It could have fried those people, leaving nothing behind. You know, I think Agent said that they had been teleported away to stop their families grieving over so many dead." "Sculder, can't you accept the possibility that that is what really happened?" "The government doesn't want the deaths off two hundred people getting out, either. They must have buried whatever evidence the army came up with." He thumped his fist on the desk. "We should never have left after we killed that creature. We should have investigated further ourselves." "Yes, you're right. I think we should have as well." "Well, it's too late now. Any shread of evidence would have been removed by now." "Sculder, we should have investigated further, because then you would have seen that there was nothing there. No bodies. No remains of any kind. You can't keep coming up with these theories. They make you sound ridiculous, and ruin your own cause." "I know the truth now, Mully. That's the important thing." Mully sighed. "I don't believe you, but I respect you. Keep your opinions, Sculder. But try not to let facts get thrown aside everytime." Sculder snorted. "Well, you're just no fun at all today, Mully." Mully rolled her eyes in dispair. -------------------------------------------------------------------------- Credits: -------- Agent Sculder and Mully were first introduced by Martin Phipps, but I think they're pretty much Public Domain now. The rest were mine.Back to the Index.